I notice that when Peter spoke about the need to replace Judas, he began to quote Scripture: “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas….” (v. 16). Later he quoted two specific passages: Psalm 69:25 (“May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it”) and Psalm 109:8 (“May another take his place of leadership”). This must mean that Peter was studying the Bible in those days and, probably, that the other disciples had been studying it too.
Two things go together in the Christian life: prayer, in which we talk to God, and Bible study, in which God talks to us. Prayer is of great importance. But somebody once said, I think wisely, that when we’re talking to God and God is talking to us, we had better let God do most of the talking. In other words, we should spend most of our time in Bible study.
What did the apostles study in those days? They began to search the Old Testament for prophecies that concerned the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Presumably this is what Jesus Himself had been sharing with them. We have a clue to what He did in the account of his ministry to the Emmaus disciples, where we are told: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). That is, from each of the three divisions of the Old Testament (the Law, the Prophets and the Writings), Jesus taught what the Messiah was to do when he came. Jesus must have begun to explain this to them, and when He was taken back to heaven, they must have said, “That was fascinating, wasn’t it? Why don’t we look these things up for ourselves?” So they got out their Bibles and began to study them.
I do not think I am merely imagining this, because, when Peter stood up to preach, as he did on the day of Pentecost, he instinctively spoke about the Old Testament Scriptures. How did he get them in his mind if not from this kind of in-depth, meaningful study?
I think, too, that when Jesus sent them back to Jerusalem to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they must have used the time to search in the Old Testament for prophecies that concerned the Holy Spirit. I say this because, when the Holy Spirit did come and Peter then stood up to preach his first great sermon, he began with the most important text about the coming of the Holy Spirit in all the Old Testament: Joel 2:28-32.
“In the last days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).
Peter must have found that text during those days of Bible study. He must have said to himself, “If Jesus is going to send the Holy Spirit as He has promised, if the Holy Spirit is going to be poured out on the church, we had better find out what this is about.” So he and the others went to the Old Testament to study about the Holy Spirit.
We sometimes say as Christians, “We want God to bless our church” or “We want God to bless our family” (or our Bible study or nation or whatever it might be). But if we are serious about this, we must learn that the way God blesses is usually through a study of the Bible, as people come to know what God has written, respond to it, believe it and proclaim it to other people in the world. If you find yourself in what seems to be a time of waiting or inactivity, redeem the time, as these disciples did. Become a better student—a more knowledgeable student—of the Word of God.